On Saturday May 5, 2018, the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, the Anne Arundel Community College Astronomy Club, and the Solar System Exploration Division of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have teamed up to offer a day of public programs focusing on our solar system. The events will include a Planet Walk on the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail and an illustrated evening presentation on asteroids  at Anne Arundel Community College, followed by a Stargazing Party at the AACC Observatory. Attendance and parking are free for all events.

The events will kick off at 10:00 am with a Planet Walk along a 4.7-mile segment of the B&A Trail between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This segment of the Trail features two sculptures and eight planet stations representing the Sun and the planets of the Solar System, with a sculptural stainless steel marker spaced at each planet’s proportional distance from the Sun. Between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm, planetary scientists and astronomers from NASA Goddard, area colleges and universities and local astronomy clubs will be at each of the planet stations to provide information and activities concerning that planet as well as to answer questions.

Participants can walk or bicycle the 4.7-mile course between the Sun Sculpture, located just south of Aquahart Road behind Harundale Plaza in Glen Burnie and the Pluto sculpture, located just north of the Earleigh Heights Road Ranger Station in Severna Park. Ample parking is located adjacent to the beginning of the Planet Walk in Glen Burnie. It is recommended that participants start at the Sun Station. This event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain. For participants seeking a shorter or less time-consuming experience, the six planets between the Sun and Saturn can be visited by traveling in the first 1 1/4 miles of the Planet Walk between Harundale Plaza and Marley Station Mall.

Special evening events are also scheduled at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus. At 7:30 pm, an Asteroid Cafe will be presented on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission in the AACC Student Union Dining Hall, located near Parking Lot A.  Dr. Jason Dworkin, Project Scientist for the mission and Director of the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA/Goddard, will give a presentation on the mission.  He will be available, with other scientists and engineers, to talk with the audience about the OSIRIS-REx mission and current asteroid research over light refreshments.  The mission was launched in 2016 to travel to the asteroid Bennu, gather a sample of Bennu’s surface materials and return that sample to earth in 2023.

Following the Asteroid Cafe’, beginning at 8:30 pm, the AACC Astronomy Club will host a Stargazing Party at the College Observatory. The Observatory is located in the back of parking lots A and B, a short walk from the Student Union. Participants will be able to use the Observatory’s telescopes with the assistance of Astronomy Club members, or may bring their own telescopes. The Stargazing Party will be cancelled in the event that either overcast conditions or inclement weather obscure the heavens.

The Tenth Anniversary Planet Walk on May 5 will give participants a chance to gain greater insight into the makeup of our solar system as well as to learn about current ongoing research projects.  Additional information about these events is also available on Facebook or http://www.friendsofaatrails.org.  For information concerning the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit http://www.asteroidmission.org.  A campus map of Anne Arundel Community College may be found at: https://www.aacc.edu/media/college/maps/ArnoldCampusMap17.pdf

Distance Chart

Sun to Pluto Distance: 3,670,000,000 miles
Length of Planet Walk: 4.7 miles
Scale: 1 Planet Walk mile represents 781,000,000 miles

distance-chart-planet-walk

About Planet Walk

One of the unique features of the B&A Trail is the inclusion of a Planet Walk stretching between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This 4.7 mile segment of the trail includes monuments to the Sun and each of the planets of our solar system from Mercury to Pluto, each located at its proportional distance from the Sun. On the B&A Planet Walk, each actual mile represents a distance of 781,000,000 miles. Walking or bicycling the Planet Walk, it is easy to grasp the relative proximity of the planets, with distances between them measured in hundredths of a mile for Earth’s closest neighbors, while in the outer solar system, the distances between planets stretch to nearly 1.3 miles.

The Planet Walk was the vision of Stan Lebar, the first president of the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails. Stan worked in the aerospace industry and led the design team which produced the miniature TV camera which accompanied America’s astronauts on their first lunar landing mission.

The Planet Walk starts just south of Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie, MD at the appropriately-named Lebar Plaza. There a twenty-six foot high sculpture representing the Sun was erected in 2004. Judy Sutton Moore of Silver Spring, MD was the sculptor for this and the other sculptures and monuments of the Planet Walk. Smaller intermediate monuments mark the planet locations, each engraved with that planet’s distance from the Sun. The final sculpture, representing Pluto and the lesser planets, is located behind a small plaza located just north of Earleigh Heights Road in Severna Park.

Each Spring, a day is set aside to provide the public with more detailed information about our solar system. Planetary scientists and astronomers staff tables at each planet location, answering questions as well as dispensing literature about each planet and conducting activities. In the evening, a related program is presented at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus, followed by a public viewing at the AACC Observatory. Details about this event are posted each spring on this website.